|SHALRIE JOSEPH Wants to stay|
Finale could be the end for Revolution's Joseph
Shalrie Joseph has been in the middle of the action - as a defender, midfielder, or forward - since joining the Revolution in 2003.
But few recall Joseph’s first appearance for the team, when he lined up at right back. Joseph was making his debut in the CONCACAF Champions Cup in Alajuela, Costa Rica, at a time when there was little coverage of the tournament in the United States.
And when the Revolution visit Toronto FC for their final game of the season today, Joseph will be competing in his 243d MLS regular-season match, tying the team record set by Jay Heaps, whose position he took in that debut game after Heaps had been red-carded.
But Joseph, whose contract expires after this season, is uncertain whether he will have a chance to break the mark, and also help the Revolution recover from possibly their worst season since the team was formed in 1996.
“Jay’s one of my good friends, even to be mentioned with him is an honor,’’ Joseph said. “He’s a guy who played with too much emotion and came out every day and worked hard. For me to be close to him, it feels great.
“Hopefully, it’s not the end of my career, I can come back and represent the Revs and still finish my career here. We’ve got a lot of young guys here and if we can put it together we’ve got a good team.
“I’ve got to play it as if it’s my last game. Whether it be in Revolution colors or whether it be - what’s going to happen to me next year, I’m not sure. But I want to be here and hopefully they can work out all the kinks and I’ll be around next year and we can make a push for the playoffs and start representing this team the way it should be represented, in terms of winning trophies and getting back to the playoffs. Hopefully, with a couple additions we can do that.’’
Coach Steve Nicol, for one, plans to have Joseph back. Asked about Joseph’s contributions to the team, Nicol replied, “Where do you want to start? He’s been a huge part of this team. Certainly, since I’ve been here, all the good things we’ve done he’s been a major part of it. I don’t know where to start. He’s given everything for the team and the organization, on the field. It’s tough to say if there’s anybody who’s given more. If there’s been a better player at this club you need to tell me who it is.’’
Joseph has been probably the most versatile performer in MLS history. He has been considered among the most proficient defensive midfielders in the league for several years, and leads the Revolution in scoring for the second time in three seasons.
Joseph has also overcome several injuries, performing with a broken cheekbone, broken nose, sprained ankle and knee, strained groin, and lacerated finger. After the 2005 MLS Cup, Joseph was unable to talk (jaw injury) or walk (various leg injuries) after the team returned to Boston. But Joseph has been in good spirits, despite the Revolution’s recent struggles and the uncertain status of Nicol, whose contract also expires this year.
“I feel like a little kid again, running around in the rain,’’ Joseph said after practice this week. “You can’t come out with a negative attitude - it’s just going to bring down the whole team and me being the captain and one of the leaders, I have to come in every morning and show it’s going to get better.
“We’re going to make the changes we need to, the additions we need, and just stay positive and enjoy and try and get the best of the last couple weeks.’’
The Revolution reached the playoffs or played for a tournament title each season from 2000 through last year’s SuperLiga event. But they enter their final match with a five-game losing streak and a last-place standing in the league.
“There were several games that were so frustrating I just wanted to basically take my cleats and call it a day,’’ Joseph said. “The Philadelphia game, being up 4-1, 3-0 - all these games are just frustrating and we could have done better. And if we were more mentally strong we could have been in a better position. But unfortunately we weren’t good enough, we weren’t strong enough. We just have to take the positives and go from there.’’
Joseph, 33, has had a rewarding career with the Revolution, though he missed a chance to transfer to Europe following offers from Celtic FC. But Joseph might have taken a different path in his international career had he chosen to play for the US instead of Grenada.
“If there’s one thing, I would definitely think twice about that decision,’’ Joseph said. “Grenada is my country, that’s where I was born and love it to death. I would have been a little bit more thoughtful in my decision. I could have always gone back and played for Grenada, instead of being in such a rush. I would have waited a little bit, a year or two.
“But the Celtic thing didn’t work out. I love being here, I want to finish my career here. And I want my jersey to be retired and I want everybody to be talking about how good I was and how I came in week in and week out and worked hard for this team and gave it my all. And at the end of the day, I just want to win the championship and it would be in Revolution colors. That would be the most glory, I think, and be one of the happiest days for me, if I could bring back a championship to this organization.’’
Forward Diego Fagundez, who sustained a concussion in a late-game clash with Columbus defender Chad Marshall last Saturday, will miss today’s game. “There’s so many of these injuries cropping up, you just have to be careful,’’ Nicol said. “If it were a Cup final we would try to get him out there, probably.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.